Hours after watching a vision of Saddam Hussain captured by the US forces, Moammar Gadhafi contacted the US government and pledged to cease its nuclear weapons development in exchange for immunity (USA Today 2011). Amidst the worsening economic turmoil in Europe, IMF chief Christine Lagarde travelled to Beijing to seek financial support from China (Barriaux 2011). Days after the Qantas negotiation dispute ended, Qantas management took out advertisements in newspapers across Australia persuading affected customers to fly with the airline company again (Barlass 2011). Whilst the contexts are different, the scenarios detailed above all had one thing in common – persuasion. The concept of persuasion is often associated to the skill reserved for selling and is commonly seen as a form of avoidable manipulation. Conger (1998) however suggests that constructive persuasion often supersedes selling and negotiators go through a learning process to develop effective persuasion skills. Business leaders can no longer rely on formal authorities to get this done due to globalisation and flatter organisational hierarchies. The use of successful persuasion is often required to gather support and change the attitudes of a leader’s subordinates (Watkins 2001). This paper outlines the different persuasion tactics used in negotiations and ways on how a negotiator can respond when the other party uses the same tactics. It then discusses the (un)ethical considerations and suggests that whilst persuasion tactics are avoided by some, the use of these tactics does not constitute unethical actions, particularly when good negotiators should expect and anticipate the use of these tactics in a negotiation.
Persuasion tactics used in negotiation
As with any other negotiation strategies, successful persuasion starts with thorough planning. A key task Watkins (2001) identified was to ‘map the influence landscape’ to identify the parties that need to be persuaded and design strategies to be implemented. By understanding the interests of the key stakeholders, a negotiator is able to build supportive coalitions through common interests. In addition, the process also identifies stakeholders with opposing interests or those who can be persuaded. Qantas was recently forced to ground its entire fleet as a response to its ongoing industrial dispute with the three unions representing its employees. The coalition of the three unions meant their collective strike actions had a greater impact on Qantas’ operations, therefore persuading Qantas management to respond to their demands.
Developing credibility at the start of the negotiation is a key tactic which can be demonstrated both directly (words or actions) and indirectly (appearance or mannerism). As Rackham (1978) suggests, skilled negotiators are effective, have a track record of significant success and have a low incidence of implementation failures. Credibility is extremely important particularly in...